Monthly Spotlight

Each month during this 50th Anniversary year, we will focus our celebration on a different theme. Some of them will seem like obvious choices --safety, for example. Others might surprise you. 

Our exploration of these themes will educate Americans about the direct and indirect connections between transportation and our daily lives; celebrate the achievements of the Department in solving past transportation challenges; and engage audiences in our efforts to meet the transportation challenges of the future.

November: DOT Supports U.S. Military Activities in Times of Peace and War

Did you know that DOT is a key DOD partner in supporting military operations across maritime, air, and land domains during national emergencies, contingency operations, and war?

The Department of Transportation Act (Public Law 89-670), signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson on October 15, 1966, directed the Secretary of Transportation to exercise leadership in transportation matters, “including those affecting the national defense and those involving national or regional emergencies.” The Secretary’s duties also included the development of national transportation policies and programs to meet the needs of the “public, users, carriers, industry, labor, and the national defense.”

Executive Order 11490 “Assigning Emergency Preparedness Functions to Federal Departments and Agencies, issued by President Richard Nixon on October 28, 1969, further detailed the Secretary’s duties in times of national emergencies.  The Secretary of Transportation, with assistance and support of other federal, state, and local governmental agencies, and the transport industries, as appropriate, shall:

  • Allocate air carrier civil air transportation capacity and equipment to meet civil and military requirements.
  • Undertake emergency management, including construction, reconstruction, and maintenance of the Nation's civil airports, civil aviation operating facilities. civil aviation services, and civil aircraft (other than air carrier aircraft), except manufacturing facilities.
  • Undertake emergency management of all Federal, State, city, local, and other highways, roads, streets, bridges, tunnels, and appurtenant structures, including:
    • The adaptation, development, construction, reconstruction, and maintenance of the Nation's highway and street systems to meet emergency requirements;
    • The protection of the traveling public by assisting State and local authorities in informing them of the dangers of travel through hazardous areas; and
    • The regulation of highway traffic in an emergency through a national program in cooperation with all Federal, State, and local governmental units or other agencies concerned.
  • Prepare emergency plans for urban mass transportation, including:
    • Providing guidance to urban communities in their emergency mass transportation planning efforts, either directly or through State, regional, or metropolitan agencies;
    • Coordinating all such emergency planning with the Department of Housing and Urban Development to assure compatibility with emergency plans for all other aspects of urban development;
  • Maintaining an inventory of urban mass transportation systems.
  • Ensure maritime safety and law enforcement over, upon, and under the high seas and waters, subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, in the following specific programs:
    • Safeguarding vessels, harbors, ports, and waterfront facilities from destruction, loss or injury, accidents, or other causes of a similar nature.
    • Safe passage over, upon, and under the high seas and United States waters through effective and reliable systems of aids to navigation and ocean stations.
    • Waterborne access to ice-bound locations in furtherance of national economic, scientific, defense, and consumer needs.
    • Protection of lives, property, natural resources, and national interests through enforcement of Federal law and timely assistance.
    • Safety of life and property through regulation of commercial vessels, their officers and crew, and administration of maritime safety law.
    • Knowledge of the sea, its boundaries, and its resources through collection and analysis of data in support of the national interest.
  • Operational readiness for essential wartime functions.
  • Plan for the emergency management and operation of the Alaska Railroad, and for the continuity of railroad and petroleum pipeline safety programs.
  • Plan for the emergency operation and maintenance of the United States-controlled sections of the Saint Lawrence Seaway.

DOT supports the military through several primary means: the Maritime Security Program; the Civil Reserve Air Fleet; Aviation War Risk Insurance Program; the Strategic Rail Corridor Network, and the Highways for National Defense Programs. These programs ensure the DOD has adequate sealift, airlift, and domestic land transit capacity during contingency operations.


October 15, 1966: The Department of Transportation Act delegated responsibility for the Aviation War Risk Insurance program to the FAA. A 1951 law to amend the Civil Aeronautics Act of 1938 (P. L. 82-47) included a title giving the Secretary of Commerce authority to provide war risk insurance when doing so was determined necessary in the interest of air commerce. Coverage could be extended to both U.S. and foreign flag aircraft deemed to be operating in the interest of the national defense or the national economy of the United States. Coverage could include aircraft, cargo, personal effects and baggage of crew and other employees carried aboard the aircraft, and statutory or contractual obligations or other liabilities. The Secretary of Commerce set premium insurance and reinsurance rates within loosely defined bounds based on analysis of available coverage and rates in the private insurance and reinsurance markets. Under the act, a revolving fund was established within the Treasury, funded through premiums, salvage, and other recoveries from loss. Any returned premiums, losses, settlements, judgments, or other liabilities covered under the insurance program would be disbursed by the Treasury from these funds. The federally provided war risk insurance could be underwritten by any company authorized to offer aviation insurance in any state. Disagreements regarding claims against the aviation war risk insurance fund could be adjudicated in federal district court. The program was continued under the Federal Aviation Act of 1958 (P. L. 85-726) and retained within the Department of Commerce until the creation of DOT.

September 14, 1968: The Highways for National Defense program required, among other items, that the DOD coordinate defense transportation interests in public highways and operational requirements with the DOT and state and local authorities.

June 25, 1975: The Military Traffic Management Command and the Department of Transportation (DOT) Federal Railroad Administration established the Railroads for National Defense (RND) program. The RND program identifies defense rail requirements, assures consideration for national defense in civil railroad policy, plans, standards, and programs, and gains support and responsiveness for defense rail line requirements. In 1976, the two agencies agreed on the initial designation of civil rail lines to form the Strategic Rail Corridor Network (STRACNET), which included those rail lines needed to support national defense needs. The following year, DOD published a list of DOD installations and activities that required rail service. The RND program also monitors the rail network for abandonments affecting STRACNET or connectors and track improvement to downgraded or abandoned lines. DOT and DOD have updated plans on multiple occasions. STRACNET enables DOD to access more than 32,000 miles of rail lines to move essential military equipment to ports located across the country and to connect military facilities.

February 14, 1977: The Maritime Administration initiated the Ready Reserve Fleet as a high readiness subset of its National Defense Reserve Fleet to support the rapid worldwide deployment of U.S. military forces. Since its inception, the program has had 603 vessel activations:

  • 1990-1992, during Desert Shield/Desert Storm operations the RRF activated 79 vessels
  • 1993-1994, during Operation Restore Hope the RRF activated 5 ships
  • 1994, during the Haitian crisis, 15 ships were activated for Uphold Democracy operations
  • 1995-1996, the RRF activated four shops to provide support to NATO peace-keeping missions
  • 1998, four RRF ships provided humanitarian assistance for Central America after Hurricane Mitch
  • 2002-2008, RRF activated 118 ships in support of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom
  • 2005, RRF provide humanitarian assistance to the U.S. Gulf Coast after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita
  • 2012, RRF activated three vessels in response to Hurricane Sandy

January 7, 1985: National Port Readiness Memorandum of Understanding, among other things, signatories agree to establish a National Port Readiness Steering Group. Nine Federal agencies and organizations have responsibilities for support of the secure movement of military forces through U.S. ports. MARAD chairs the National Port Readiness Network Steering Group, and administers Port Planning Orders for 15 commercial strategic ports so they may fulfill defense requirements.

August 18, 1990: The Military Airlift Command (MAC) activated the Civil Reserve Air Fleet CRAF) for the first time in history. Between August 1990 and May 1991, MAC used activated and volunteered CRAF assets to support the massive deployment of U.S. troops and supplies to the Gulf region during Operation Desert Shield/Storm. CRAF consists of approx. 31 commercial airline carriers that can provide up to 1,025 aircraft to DOD to support airlift during war. NOTE: In times of war, the President can transfer the FAA to the Department of Defense (49 U.S. Code § 40107)

In addition, DOT operates a Veterans Transportation Career Center that works closely with the DOD, Department of Labor, Small Business Administration, and the Veteran’s Administration to help transition veterans into public and private-sector jobs.

August: Climate Change Mitigation in Transportation

Transportation is crucial to our economy and our personal lives. However, all human activities have an impact on our environment, and transportation is no exception. That is why DOT is working hard to create a more energy-efficient transportation system.

Zero-Emission-Bus growth in US

In its efforts to achieve a clean energy economy, tackle the issue of climate change, and protect the nation’s environment, DOT is working with industry to:

  • Improve the efficiency of passenger vehicles, trucks, buses, and airplanes
  • Develop and deploy zero-emission technologies
  • Support freight rail transportation
  • Identify marine transportation freight alternatives
  • Improve aircraft technologies
  • Facilitate development of alternative fuels for all modes of transportation
  • Invest in high-speed and intercity passenger rail
  • Reduce roadway congestions
  • Plan for efficient transportation
  • Upgrade the pipeline infrastructure

DOT’s initiatives to reduce greenhouse gases by improving the efficiency of all vehicles, encouraging the use of alternative fuels, and developing technologies for more fuel-efficient vehicles and aircraft is already having a positive effect on the country.  In fact, we are seeing fuel efficiency technologies enter the market faster than nearly anyone anticipated. In addition, DOT initiatives are:

  • Saving consumers and businesses money at the pump and reducing greenhouse emissions through improved vehicles and aircraft, alternative fuels, and practical transportation alternatives;
  • Providing more transportation choices so passengers and freight can move by the most efficient and convenient modes, offering substantial reductions in petroleum use; and
  • Reducing petroleum consumption and greenhouse gas emissions by instituting measures to improve transportation efficiency across all modes of transportation.

June: Transportation Innovation

Innovation is paramount at DOT. We have long supported cutting-edge transportation research and development, and believe in giving innovators access to the data and tools necessary to help launch pioneering technologies in their own communities. This partnership of research and deployment can generate even more creative problem-solving and forward-looking solutions for meeting our current and future infrastructure challenges.

Timeline of transportation innovation

Click on the image above to see our Transportation Innovation Timeline.

Here are some examples of work we are doing across the Department:

  • One part of our vision is to bring connectivity to transportation through the use of advanced wireless technologies. We are working to connect our vehicles, connect our infrastructure, and connect our cities—leveraging technology to maximize the safety, mobility, and environmental sustainability of our transportation network. DOT is proud to serve as a global leader in large-scale connected vehicle pilot deployments, and we expect to see even more cars with this technology on the roads in the coming years.
  • Through the Smart City Challenge, DOT is encouraging cities to put forward their most innovative ideas for addressing their transportation challenges. The vision of the Smart City Challenge is to demonstrate and evaluate a holistic approach to improving transportation performance within a city and to integrate this approach with other smart city elements including public safety, public services, and energy.
  • The Integrated Corridor Management (ICM) program, piloted in Dallas and San Diego, is a promising congestion management tool that works to optimize existing infrastructure and leverage unused capacity along our nation’s urban corridors. With ICM, transportation professionals manage the transportation corridor as a multimodal system. Partner agencies manage the corridor to improve travel time reliability and predictability; help manage congestion; and empower travelers through better information and more choices.
  • DOT’s Mobility Service for All Americans (MSAA) is an innovative way of coordinating and integrating services to ensure access to transportation for the disadvantaged. DOT has funded three transportation management Coordination Centers (Paducah, KY, Aiken, SC, and Camden, NJ) where senior citizens, the disabled, veterans, low wage workers, and others can make one call and have their trips planned out using public transit, taxis, paratransit, ambulance service, and other vehicles.
  • The FAA’s NextGen program is already making a difference. Through NextGen, the FAA is developing and deploying a comprehensive suite of state-of-the-art technologies and procedures that enable aircraft to move more directly from Point A to Point B. This helps passengers reach their destinations on time, while reducing fuel burn and lessening our impact on the environment. Much of NextGen’s success can be attributed to the productive collaboration between DOT and partners in the aviation industry, including airlines, airports, our unions, and state and local governments.
  • The FAA is also partnering with industry to ensure the safety of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS). The agency is collaboratively developing operating concepts and criteria for emerging UAS technologies to ensure safe, timely, and efficient integration of UAS into the National Airspace System.

Looking ahead, DOT’s priorities will continue to put safety first, while working to advance connected vehicles, automation, enterprise data, emerging technology, interoperability, and deployment. DOT’s research is critical to developing innovative solutions to transportation’s toughest challenges—and to ensuring seamless technology deployment.

For a history of DOT’s Intelligent Transportation Systems Joint Program Office, visit

March: Women in Transportation

Since the founding of the United States, women have played an integral role in developing and advancing transportation. From wagons and horse carts to bicycles, automobiles, trucks, trains, ships, airplanes, and space vehicles, women have served as inventors, pilots, engineers, drivers, administrative professionals, conductors, and executives in a host of vital occupations. Today, increasing numbers of women are making a critical difference in the safe and efficient movement of people and goods here in America and throughout the world. The Department of Transportation salutes these pioneers – past, present, and future.

What to Expect this Month

Throughout March, you can expect events highlighting the role of women in transportation. Look for us to feature profiles of DOT women whose work advances the Department’s mission and goals. Senior women in the Department will participate in roundtable discussions and forums. And of course, Secretary Foxx will be out front, leading our Women in Transportation celebration at key events.

Useful Links on Women and Girls in Transportation

February: Transportation's Role in Advancing Ladders of Opportunity

“Through transportation, we can help ensure that the rungs on the ladder of opportunity aren’t so far apart—and that the American dream is still within reach for those who are willing to work for it.” – Secretary Anthony Foxx

We see transportation having a greater impact than taking people from the Ninth Ward in New Orleans to a job, or from the Far Rockaways in New York to a doctor, or from West Charlotte to a school, or South Side Chicago to an apartment, or San Francisco's Mission District to a job training program.

Transportation can do more than that. If we at DOT do our jobs right, communities can experience better economic growth, schools can improve, neighborhood health can increase, the housing stock can get better, and job training and local hiring can translate not just to jobs outside the community but to jobs in the same neighborhoods where workers live.

We can't just talk about delivering people from their doorstep to opportunity; we must help lay a substrate where opportunity can take root at that doorstep and help revitalize communities.

Upcoming Themes

  • April: Safety Then and Now
  • May: Celebrating Public Service at DOT
  • June: Advancing Innovation and Technology Across the Transportation System
  • July: Paying for a 21st Century Transportation System
  • August: Climate Change and Transportation
  • September: Local and State Transportation Solutions
  • October: How We Move Things
  • November: Veterans in Transportation
  • December: Future Leaders in Transportation
Updated: Thursday, November 17, 2016
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